Xi has been working hard to consolidate power and purge China’s government and Party leadership. The crackdown is taking a toll on China’s intelligence services, according to David Ignatius:
The [Ministry of State Security] has replaced two vice ministers within the past four years, after reports of political infighting and scandal. The current minister is said to be a figurehead, with the real power held by a hard-line Xi loyalist who was drafted last year from the party’s discipline commission.
This shake-up within the intelligence service mirrors China’s broader political turmoil, stemming largely from Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. This effort, which began soon after Xi became Communist Party chief in 2012, has targeted prominent military, security and political figures — and created what many China-watchers say is a backlash against Xi.
Recent newspaper headlines convey the unrest that’s swirling in China: “Grumbling mounts in China, even in the party. Is President Xi losing his grip?” asked a Post news article this week. “Anonymous Call for Xi to Quit Rattles Party Leaders in China,” the New York Times reported. But experts caution that despite such talk, Xi’s hold on power probably remains firm.
Xi may be safe, but his efforts to shake things up and instill order in the Party are cause for plenty of concern. Every story about another crackdown on disloyalty, dissent, or corruption is another indication that Xi worries about the ability of the Party of retain its hold on power. In past years, strong economic growth gave the Party its legitimacy. With such happy times apparently over, Xi seems to believe the Party needs to change its grip if it is to remain in control. So the harsher the crackdowns get, the more it looks like Xi—who knows as much about China’s true economic stability as anyone—is worried. That should be cause for concern among China watchers around the world.